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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: A Dim Ill-Mannered Place
By TJ Nickel


Two hours into the Wednesday night prayer vigil, all of the members had left except an old blind man who sat mumbling while reading his Bible in brail. The elder and the deacon stood at the entrance to the sanctuary, unwilling to interrupt him and unable to leave him on his own.

“On Sunday, he was farting over the sermon,” said the deacon.


“He’s got a demon.”

“What kind?”

“What’s the difference?”

“How can you know he’s got a demon?”

“He’s not senile or anything.”

“They’re gonna kick him out.”

“Maybe he’ll quit.”

“He should be fearful and go home.”

The old man cocked his head to the side without halting his reading fingers.

Emboldened, the deacon shouted “Go home, old man!” and then he turned down three of the four light switches on the back wall.

When the elder gave him a disapproving look, he flipped up one of the switches while saying, “He doesn’t have eyes to see.”

“A little more,” the old man said, looking up. The deacon turned up all four switches, flooding the room with light. “Thank you.”

The deacon’s spine shivered and his eyes repetitively squinted, for as the floodlights illuminated the room to its previous condition he saw dark figures swimming through the air.

“Did he stand up to fart?”

“He just kept lifting a different cheek, waddling like a crazy duck.”

“Did everyone scoot away?”

“Everyone but his Goth granddaughter.”

“What’d she do?”

“Sat there giggling like a schoolgirl. I’m tired of standing here watching him read.”

“He reads because he seeks something.”

“He’s crazy to spend his time reading what a pastor can tell him about on Sundays.”

“They say you become what you read.”

“I read nothing, but I’m something.”

“To he that has much,” said the old man, holding up his Bible.

“Put…it…down!” said the deacon, as if he was talking to a two year-old holding a stick of dynamite. “Go…home!” Then he turned off all the lights.

The old man closed his book and stood with the aid of his walking cane. In passing, he gave the elder a note he was using as a bookmark. The note had been given to him at the start of the vigil.

“Why’d you turn off the lights again?”

“He can read at home.”

“Isn’t this the best place?”

“It’s a place to hear, not a place to read.”

“Turn the light on so I can read this.”

“Give it here.”

The deacon took the paper from the elder as he flicked on a switch. He tried focusing on the paper but the black ink raced in flying patterns. He squinted and shook again.

“You need to get those eyes checked.”

“You’re the one with coke bottle glasses.”

“Can’t you take a joke?”

“I’m all business. Let’s lock up.”

“You go ahead.”

The young man handed off the note and rushed from the building. Reading a note that said, “I am an old fart,” the elder chuckled to himself as he meandered throughout the building making sure the place was tidy enough to pass the pastor’s inspection. His chuckle turned into an internal dialogue he was willing to spill into the empty space around him. He knew that he liked the old man more than the deacon and he knew, because of that, the deacon would one day move beyond him in this place. A something was missing from within him, a something he once thought he could consistently will into existence, a something he now wondered if he ever really possessed. I believe in something, the almighty something, creator of something and nothing…that will come again to judge those with something, forgive those with nothing, resurrect them into something, so that they might be something everlasting, Amen.

He turned off the final light and made his way outside. He lit a cigarette, letting his smoke float into the night sky around him. The deacon’s car raced around the bend of the building and stopped before him.

“Need a ride, coke bottles?”

“No thank you,” said the elder, his hand frozen to his right side by the possessed stare of the deacon. As the car pulled away, the elder began to walk home in the night filled with swarming black figures making their way through his puffed smoke. He farted over the next six steps, accentuating his gate from side to side. It’s probably just something, he told the figures, many must have it.

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This article has been read 569 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 04/25/10
You kinda lost me with this one. Sorry, not sure what to say.
AnneRene' Capp04/27/10
Well...I totally didn't get this, but I reeeally tried. The best I could come up with is that the elder was a demon in disguise? Will say though...the farting gave me a good chuckle :)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/27/10
I too was a tad lost at times, but I enjoyed the part where church is meant for so much more than just listening. The older blind man was quite wise in his way.It's also a good demonstration on how not to act in church. Keep writing!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/28/10
Your explanation definitely helped me somewhat. Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now that I understand it a little better, I appreciate your effort and the irony.
Gerald Shuler 04/28/10
For me, this entry needed a second chapter to fill in the questions this one leaves. Your explanation on the message board was that second chapter. Thank you.
Noel Mitaxa 04/28/10
I'm sorry, my anonymous friend, but I too could only try to "gas" where this was going. I could use puns about "atmospheric" writing, but I won't.
TJ Nickel04/29/10
Guess this one needed and author's note, eh?...

"A Dim Ill-Mannered Place" is an homage to Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" in which three characters dialogue in a certain setting and their dialogue and the surrounding events tie the three characters into one character at different times in his life. The structure and flow is intentionally set up to follow the original story and the italicized lines are plays off his use of the Lord's prayer and the concept of nothingness.

So, I replaced suicide with farting, alcoholism with prayer, a bar with church, Our Father with the Apostle's Creed, and nothingness with somethingness...

all that was attempted, not sure how well I pulled it off, but I hope those notes help
Gregory Kane05/11/10
I appreciate that you have had a lot of comments from confused readers. I would just like to say that I really liked your entry, even without the explanation. I thought it was wonderfully atmospheric and the humour at the end was naughty but somehow fitting to the earthy tone.